8 June 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network

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“I think the reality of the situation is a terrifying concept in itself;” Actor Niamh Algar on new ITV drama Malpractice
09 Mar 2023 : Luke Shanahan
Niamh Algar in Malpractice
IFTA-winning and BAFTA-nominated actress Niamh Algar (Deceit, Calm with Horses, Raised by Wolves) speaks with us about starring in the upcoming ITV medical thriller Malpractice, which releases on Virgin Media Television later this year.

Malpractice is produced by World Productions and written by former doctor Grace Ofori-Attah with BAFTA-nominated Boiling Point director Philip Barantini helming the show.

“Ofori-Attah was an A&E doctor for 10 years, so this was actually based upon events that took place when she was working in the NHS,” Algar tells IFTN. “I shadowed consultants in a central London hospital, working in the A&E department there. I got the opportunity to see firsthand the strains and pressures that these medical staff were under. That was an invaluable education into the world of these people.”

“Post pandemic, if anything, this medical thriller is more poignant now than it was when we made it.”

Algar plays the role of Dr Lucinda Edwards, a smart, battle-hardened doctor, who we meet on a nightmare shift that ends in the death of an opioid overdose victim, Edith Owusu. Despite the support of her medical supervisor, Dr Leo Harris, played by James Purefoy (A Discovery of Witches, Pennyworth, Sex Education), Edith’s grieving father Sir Anthony Owusu, played by Brian Bovell (Crime, Strike), demands an enquiry into Lucinda’s actions on the fateful night. 

Leading the medical investigation are Dr Norma Callahan played by Irish actress Helen Behan (Holding, The Virtues) and Lucinda’s former colleague, Dr George Adjei, played by Jordan Kouamé (Megalomania). While George feels this was an unavoidable tragedy, Norma is suspicious of Lucinda’s behaviour and decisions in the lead up to Edith’s death. 

As the pressure of the investigation intensifies, Lucinda’s relationship with husband Tom, played by Lorne MacFadyen (Pistol, Vigil) starts to fracture, and her confident professional exterior begins to crack. Is Lucinda hiding something? Through the cat and mouse thriller of the medical investigation, Malpractice tells the story of a damaged doctor caught up in a dangerous conspiracy.

Algar hopes the show will encourage “more empathy towards medical staff” as audiences gain a greater insight into the intense world in which these medical professionals operate within. “You get to see both sides of someone working there, their home life, and how this can affect someone mentally - the consistent pressure,” says Algar.

“A&E is not cut out for everyone. It almost feels like you're going to war every night. This is like the first line of defence before you're admitted into a hospital. You're seeing a vast amount of people with different conditions. Given the pressures that medical staff are under at the moment with these incredible wait times, by the time you get to see patients the amount of pain and distress that you find them in… it's an uncomfortable situation for both patients and staff.”

“I think the reality of the situation is a terrifying concept in itself.”

Filming in and around Leeds, the Malpractice cast also includes Hannah Walters (Boiling Point, Time) in the role of Matron Beth Relph, Priyanka Patel (Britney, Another Me) as Dr. Rayma Morgan, Scott Chambers (Chicken, Innocent S2) as Dr. Oscar Beattie, Tristan Sturrock (Poldark, Doc Martin) as Dr. Mike Willet, and Georgina Rich (Heartstoppers, War of the Worlds) playing Dr. Eva Thornbury. 

Malpractice is written by Grace Ofori-Attah, whose credits include In the Long Run and Urban Myths, directed by Philip Barantini (Boiling Point, The Responder, Villain) and produced by Sophie Reynolds (State of the Union).

“Philip Barantini, our director, is all about realism and making it as natural as possible. He wanted audiences to feel like we're never looking away, we're never trying to make the audience feel comfortable at any moment. It's by the makers of 'Line of Duty' so it's that 'on the edge of your seat', drama,” Algar explains.

“We partook in these medical procedures with prosthetics. The incredible art department team were able to create life-like parts of the body, like organs, hearts, and lungs, and to get them to function the same way in which the body does while we're doing the scenes. The camera team were able to pan down and back up during the dialogue. So the scenes themselves feel incredibly real.”

Algar is fresh off the back of several critically acclaimed films such as Censor, and The Wonder starring Florence Pugh. When asked if she hopes 2023 will be an even bigger year for her career, she answers: “You always hope for that, to produce good work, but it's the quality of the work. I'm incredibly proud of this series, and everyone that's involved in it. To be able to work on a series written by someone who was a doctor, that's a great privilege to just have that as a resource, and to work with Philip Barantini. When I saw ‘Boiling Point’ I was like, 'Oh, my God, this is incredible. Who directed this?'. When I got approached for 'Malpractice', I went into the meeting and my agent was like, 'You're there to ask questions. You're not accepting it straight away.' But from walking from the door over to the table I just thought, 'I'm doing this.' I said to Phil, 'I want to work with you, I've read the script and this is amazing'. Very excited for 2023 and very excited for people to see the show.”

The five-part series was executive produced by Simon Heath, CEO of World Productions, producers of Line of Duty, Save Me, Vigil, The Pembrokeshire Murders and Anne. World was awarded Best Independent Production Company at last year’s Broadcast Awards, having also won in 2019. The company is part of ITV Studios. 

Malpractice is coming to Virgin Media and ITV1 this spring.

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